I get lost. Like when I was at my first Macworld Expo. My hotel was two blocks from the convention center, but I made a wrong turn somewhere and it took me over two hours to find my hotel. Like when I suddenly found myself at night on a country road in a town I have lived in for 15 years with absolutely no idea how to get back to town. Like when it is standard practice to find a place a day ahead of time when I must be somewhere important at a specific time, such as a job interview or to give a speech. Then I draw a map with buildings or places as reference points. Like when I am under stress I can't remember which is right and which is left unless I form an L with my left hand to help me focus. Multiply these examples by two or three hundred.
There is a reason for all of this, related to being a twin, a breech birth, and a little brain damage. All that just means the problem isn't going to go away. Lord knows I am not the only directionally challenged person around.
That doesn't change the fact that it is frequently frustrating, sometimes quite scary, and always a problem. For that reason, when I was given the opportunity to review a true GPS app for my iPhone I jumped at the chance. By true GPS I mean one that shows the roads clearly, talks to me with clear instructions, and adjusts to changing circumstances as needed.
Frankly, it was going to take a really good app to get a five star rating from me. It doesn't take very many instances of crying on the side of a lonely road to know what is important and what isn't. And for those readers who may be thinking "Why hasn't she tried a GPS system before this" the answer is that I have. The software was not particularly accurate and the second time I was told "Your destination is 2.2 miles away" when I could see my destination, I stopped trusting it.
NAVIGON AG is made by NAVIGON and uses map materials from NAVTEQ. It sells for US$89.99 and can be found under the Navigator category in the iTunes Store. It only works on the iPhone 3G or 3GS. The mapping system can be used without any Internet connection which can be very important for anyone traveling abroad where Internet connections can be costly. It also means, of course, that it works equally effectively when walking. To work effectively in a car or truck, the iPhone should be placed at dashboard level. Window mounts are available from third party sites. There are several available, but the one recommended by the NAVIGON folks is the Windshield/Vent Car Mount with Sound Amplified Cradle for Phone made by Kensington.
The application can be used for driving, walking or boating. The evaluation of this software does not cover any aspect of boating as I don't have access to a boat and it is so dry where I live in Texas right now the docks don't reach the water even if I did have access to one. Distance units can be set in miles or kilometers.
It can be set to show direct access to specific brand gas stations or specific or generic restaurants that are available on your trip. For instance, you can ask it to mark all the McDonalds, or mark all the restaurants that serve vegetarian. You can turn off the option to monitor the posted speed limits or leave it on and you will be warned if you exceed those limits. You can have street names announced or turn that option off. You can tell it to take you home if necessary.
Using the Software
The first time I used the NAVIGON AG I entered an address for some place I knew how to get too. A bit of protective behavior, yes, but also I was interested to see if it would take me the shortcut route or the traditional route. Not only did it take me the shortcut route, it bypassed a school zone. I was instructed to turn a block before the school and the application took me around the school and back to the road I needed to be on. I didn't have to slow to 20 mph or worry about children running in front of my car. Curious about this behavior, I asked about it and was told that the software doesn't purposely route around school zones, rather the average driving speed for the these zones is so low that the routing algorithm avoids guiding through these zones.
If you deviate from the planned route, for example you miss a turn or stop for gas and exit the station on a different road, the software just adjusts automatically to the changes. I do this, a lot. It is one of the ways I get lost so easily.
The instructions are very precise: "In one mile take the Westover exit." "Exit now for Westover and turn right at the light." "Now turn right onto Bland Road." "Make a u-turn at the first opportunity, your destination is opposite your current location." "You have reached your destination, 1000 Main Street is on your left. "Merge left in 2.4 miles and head south on Mopac." "Merge left now." "This lane will end in 1.6 miles, merge left." "Drive 12 miles toward your next exit."
Entering addresses is very easy. You start with the city, and the system remembers the last city you entered and offers that as a first option. Once it accepts the city, you enter the street, but because it has the city, all the streets are now at your fingertips, so you only have to enter a few letters to find the street you need, then you can enter the street number, click Start Navigation and you are on your way.
NAVIGON AG Window Simulation Image
The system resumes working following interruption by a phone call. You will get the most use from the application if there are two people in the car. Most drivers aren't able to monitor all of the visuals available on the screen while also driving a vehicle, i.e., locating the restaurant or rest stop that is next on the road. However, one person in the car can easily get from point A to point B very precisely, using the shortest, most logical route.
The Bottom Line
No once since I have been using NAVIGON AG have I been given any driving or walking instructions that were inaccurate. I am very, very impressed, not to say quite thankful that this software is available. Knowing what I know about it now I would buy it at twice the price just for the peace of mind it would bring to me personally. Not only is it on my iPhone, so are all the addresses from my Address Book. I will have everything I need in one hand if something unexpected happens.